Scale model cockpit FPV

cool scale cockpit video

Funny Zoo Snap

man enjoys elephant My wife noticed this in the family archives.

RC Nitro motorcycle racing

rc motorcycle Motorcycle racing in Lilliput.

Manned RC Multicopter

manned multicopter
Here’s an RC multicopter big enough to ride on!

Make: Talk 004

make: Talk 004
I had a fun time talking to Mark Frauenfelder in episode 4 of his new podcast, Make: Talk!

One Man Basement Band

one man band
I feel like I could be getting more mileage out of my right foot.


liberty vintage motorcycles An Etsy portrait. Thanks, Danny.

Tequila Sleeve

tequila the champs
Champs sleeve

Wolf-Stelzer Book Lamp

Book Lamp
My friend Tess just made the cover of ReadyMade with her cool lamp design.

Tree Stump Bug

Can this be for real? The design is so awesomely Thunderbirds. Via

The Nothing Box

nothing box


Thunderbirds are go
Are Go!

Command Center

command center
Sweet assemblage spaceship’s bridge.

Four Drano’s

Watch the sink slowly, all but disappear from the design .

Toothpaste Aerosol

toothpaste aerosol
Aerosol toothpaste

Build your own theremin

April 6th, 2005


The Theremin was the brainchild of Prof. Leon Theremin, a Russian born Scientist, experimenter and electronics pioneer. Theremin lived and worked in New York City in the 20′s and 30′s and his story has as many mysterious and sinister twists and turns as the music that eminates from a well- played Theremin.

The theremin is unlike any other musical instrument in that you don’t actually touch the theremin while you play it. You just sort of wave your hands around in front of it. The proximity of your hands to the antannae alters the pitch and volume. In case you are not theremin aware, this is what they sound like.

I wont go into the whole history but there is an excellent film that tells the whole tale. RCA had plans to mass-market the instrument, with the hopes that every cultured home would have one in the parlor (a sort of precursor to the Hammond organ). They made a deal in 1929 to produce and distribute Theremins, producing an initial run of 200 units. The ad campaign failed to convince the public that they needed a Theremin and those who did buy one had difficulty mastering it.

The theremin is indeed difficult play if your goal is to “wave” up a rendition of a piano concerto, or some popular tune. In fact many consider Clara Rockmore to be the only person to truly master the instrument. A CD of Rockmore’s recordings entitled “The Art of The Theremin” is available. (Delos d/cd 1024).

Although it never caught on with the public, The instrument maintained a following amoung the avante-garde and was popular during the 50′s and 60′s for use in Horror and Sci-Fi film soundtracks,as well as amoung composers of popular “Exotica” and Lounge genre recordings. Although the Theremin may not have been much of a comercial success, its’ impact on the evolution of popular music was profound. The Theremin was the first electronic musical instrument, and the inspiration for other electronic music pioneers.

Robert Moog got his start in fact building and playing theremins as a younster in th e1940′s. Certainly, Popular music would not have followed the evolutionary path that it did, had Moog not become interested in electronic music, and gone on to make the later developments that he made. Now Moog has returned to his roots and is having qute a bit of success with his Etherwave line of theremins.

Right about the time of the beginning of the lastest revival in interest in theremins, I happen to glance at at the cover of an issue of Electronics Now magazine and saw was was unmistakably a Theremin! When I found out that I could build my own solid-state Theremin for around 80 bucks, I got out my checkbook.

The kit is called the Theremax and is put together by PAIA Electronics. The kit is avialable as either an electronic components only package, or you can get the optional wooden lectern kit. I went with the first option as I had elaborate plans to build a retro-futuristic, wooden case with a lighted, ground-glass oscilliscope-like screen set into the front onto which laser patterns would be rear-projected, the light bouncing off of mirrors that would be mounted to the internal speaker, which was driven by the 80 watt tube amp that I took out of a movie projector ……..Of course, In the end, I went with the RadioShack small metal enclosure.

The Theremax kit comes with an easy to follow instruction book, with good schematics and diagrams. It is a very approachable beginners electronic kit for someone with at least a little soldering experience. The most challenging thing about building the theremax was tuning the occilators. PIAA has a very accomodating tech-support policy, they helped me troubleshoot the circuit after I had completed the assembly and the thing didnt work. (my own fault).

The Magic is Gone (Vinyl Magic)

April 4th, 2005

jh Carr and sons boothmakers

When you walk into a greasy spoon, do you immediately scope out the seating, hoping like hell that you get a booth rather some skimpy table? And are you not bummed when it becomes obvious that your server is directing you to a horribly exposed, under-cushioned, little floor table insted?

Me too. I wasn’t ever going to let that happen to me in my own home, so I made a little sketch of my kitchen floor plan and headed down to JH Carr and Sons in the South end of Seattle. These are the folks who make the booths for restaurants all over the country. If you’ve ever eaten a chicken-fried steak, chances are you were sitting in a JH Carr and Sons booth.

They have a huge factory where they churn out booths, chrome-edged tables, chairs and all manner of restaurant seating, and ship it all over the world, improving dining experiences everywhere. There doesn’t seem to be any minimum order either. They will gladly whip up a single booth, just the right size for your kitchen.

vinyl magic

When I went to pick up my booth a few weeks after ordering it, the guy who helped me load it into the truck gave me a quick lecture on booth care, and handed me a can of Vinyl Magic. I was smitten.

I love vinyl magic. Not so much as a cleaner, I mean sure it shines up my booth like nobody’s business, but I really like it for its brilliantly anachronistic package design. The can itself has that old world 4 color printing rather than an applied paper label, which gives it a quality feel. The front features a diagonal split scene with some excellent circa 1978 photography. The top shows a woman lounging invitingly on the armrest of some horrible monstrosity of a brown vinyl lounge chair and ottoman. The bottom pane has a guy in a white turtleneck leaning proudly over the white vinyl top of his car.


I was all prepared to go into an in-depth explaination of what makes vinyl magic so refreshing, when I stubmled upon this great article by Paul Lukas, who has collected the entire Magic family of cleaners.

With my can of Vinyl Magic running perilously low, I set out to replenish my supply. Unable to find any in the Seattle area, I visited the Magic American Website where I was met with some alarmingly contemporary package designs. Most disturbing of all, was the conspicuous absence altogether of Vinyl Magic.

I sent an e-mail to customer service at Magic American, hoping to get some clarity on the sutuation:


Thank you for contacting Magic American, unfortunately we no longer manufacture that product and we do not have a replacement at this time.


Christina Hays
Customer Service
Homax Products / Magic American

—–Original Message—–
From: slode@xxxxxx [mailto:slode@xxxxxxxx]
Sent: Tuesday, March 29, 2005 9:57 AM
To: mail@magicamerican.com
Subject: Vinyl Magic


I am trying to locate a retailer of your Vinyl Magic product in the Seattle area. I visited your website, but I dont see the product listed in the Magic section. Are you still offering this product?


steve lodefink

So, it appears that the Magic is gone. I have yet to call JH Carr and Sons, because I am afraid that they are going to suggest Windex or 409 or some lesser product. Their tech support page still solely reccomends Vinyl Magic as your primary booth care topcoat, so apparently they have not yet had a chance to deal with the fact that it is out of production.

If anyone happens to find any Vinyl Magic new old stock, please let me know.

RetroVision 2000 AV Cabinet

April 1st, 2005


My collection of vintage televisions, which once numbered six or seven sets, has slowly been reduced to one diminutive little Singer 5 inch portable. The big, wood cabinet Admiral on metal legs that served as the front entryway table in our last house was the longest hanger-on from the collection, but alas, fell victim to our last move.

A lot of people probably consider a brand new Sony 27 inch television a stylish addition to their environment, but for me it was a big ugly plastic assault on my sensibilities. I just can’t shake my affinity for the mid-century sets. I had been toying for some time with the idea of building a custom housing for a modern television, or adapting the cabinet from a vintage set to hold the innards from a modern TV. I decided instead to make a cabinet that looked like an old TV, but held our entire AV stack in addition to the TV itself.

The cabinet is basically a big birch ply box with 3 sections, one up top for the TV, and 2 down below, one for all the other components, and a smaller, vertical compartment for media storage. The top half door is glassed in, and opens for clear viewing, or swiveling of the large turntable that holds the TV. The bottom panel including the mock control panel is a single inset door, covered in radio grille cloth which I ordered from grillecloth.com

The base is kind of a Heywood Wakefield inspired job made of solid rock maple. An old set of rabbit ears completes the motif.

Aquatic Gardens 15″ plastic bonsai

March 30th, 2005


Ill admit it, I’m an aquarist. I am also a tarantula fancier, so I regularly find myself at the pet store replenishing my supply of crickets, or just scouting out the Lake Malawi cichlids for something unusual.

Several months ago in the plastic plant and ornament section I noticed this bonsai tank ornament by Aquatic Gardens and was compelled to buy 2 of them. I wasnt really sure what I was going to do with them, but I had to have one, and at $3.99 each, why not get 2? I certainly wasn’t going to use them in my aquarium, I mean a pine tree growing in an fish habitat? I don’t really see it. I can understand a castle, or Spongebob or Pluto in a diving helmet or something that is obviously fantastic, but not an evergreen tree.

I was more interested in the tree for terrestrial purposes. Assembling the tree was a snap and within minutes I had a perfectly formed dwarf pinus mugho planted in the root-over-rock form, minus the rock. If you’ve ever actually tried to cultivate an evergreen bonsai, you more than likely met with frustration and ultimate failure. Those things are tough to keep alive. You have to water them about every 15 minutes or they dry out, and if you do manage to keep one alive, you have to wait 45 years while you coax it into a respectable shape and size.

Everybody loves a bonsai, I think that it is in part, becuase of their illusory nature. And there certainly is no denying the harmonious form and balance of the 15 inch plastic bonsai. People just like things that are suggestive of Zen. Even if you aren’t really sure what Zen means, you like it.

Becker Europa II Stereo

March 29th, 2005

Becker Europa

What do I like most about my iPod?

The 1973 Becker Europa II Stereo AM/FM radio.

Nothing blemishes the center console or dash of a classic automobile quite like a period inappropriate piece of audio gear. I have a 1973 BMW 2002, and I have always hated the crappy late 80′s cassette deck that the previous owner had installed in the car. I thought about getting CD player, maybe something in an unobtrusive black plastic, as anything would be better than the ill-installed “champagne” colored Sears unit that was there, and I wasn’t exactly keeping a fresh rotation of cassette mix tapes the way I used to.

I was all set to get the CD player when I saw the Griffin iTrip FM transmitter for the iPod. That’s when it dawned on me that I should put the original radio back in the car. I got on the horn to my local Mercedes-Benz wrecking yard and located the Becker Europa, the kind of radio that would have been installed by the BMW dealer upon importation of the car. Actually, it would more likely have been a Blaupunkt, but the Becker is way cooler.

After reading some reviews of FM transmitters (almost all said that they sucked) I was pretty skeptical about how the iTrip was going to perform, but it actually works pretty well for me. It is MP3 over FM radio through car speakers after all, so it’s not reference for sure, but for me, having my radio returned to its original, German, chrome bezeled glory is more than worth any compromise in sound quality.

As for the Becker radio, its phenomenal. The tone is actually quite good. I love the heavy chrome bezel and “quality plastic” knobs. The mechanical preset tuning buttons and the warm incandescent glow of the dial lights really make me feel like a kid again.

Concrete lightbulb

March 28th, 2005

lightbult casting

I don’t know art, but I know what I like. Recently, I found myself taking a shine to lightbulbs. I don’t remember exactly what started the whole lightbulb thing, but when it was all over, I was in posession of several handsome examples of different screw-base lightbulbs, a huge light bulb oil painting, and a dozen or so concrete lightbulb castings.

The concrete bulbs are particularly popular among visiters to my cubicle at the office. When people pick one of these things up off my desk, they invariably finger it for a second while doing a few eyebrow excercises before finally letting out a “Ok, how did do it?”

It’s surprisingly simple, try making some yourself.

Take a very fine file, razor saw, or emery board and carefully saw aroud the lightbulb, right where the glass meets the threaded base. You want to score the glass all the way around. Then you will be able to snap the bulb right off at the base and extract the base complete with the long glass filament holder. Do several at a time, since some will turn out better than others.

Next mix up some some concrete, either pre-mix or just a 50/50 blend of sand and portland cement. Make it about the consistency of hummus. (everyone always says peanut butter, so I thought that I would say hummus.)

Use a funnel or paper cone to fill the bulbs with the concrete, then replace the glass stem and screw base. Let the concrete dry for a few weeks, then peel the glass away much like you are peeling a hard-boiled egg.

Now, sit back and be moved by the juxtaposition of the fragile and the resilient, a familiar warm form rendered in cold, heavy, stone.

Ray Alderman’s bulb log.

Two-bit wedding rings

March 27th, 2005

make a ring from a coin

I‘m not sure of the origins of the coin ring idea, but I would like to think that it was a product of the 1930′s dust-bowl when some down-and out but ingenious tinkerer with nothing but some idle time and 25 cents, managed to woo his young sweetheart with a fine sterling engagement ring.

I do remember where I learned of the concept. Someone on the sidewalk was handing out free copies of some new, doomed to fail fashion magazine aimed at the teen male segment. One of the articles was on how to make a coin ring. This is just the sort of project that I am powerless to resist, so I made immediate plans to visit a coin shop. I have always had a thing for the old silver coins. As a kid I used to go into my father’s top dresser drawer when no one was around and take out this green canvas bank bag that held the remains of his boyhood coin collection and admire them all.

To make your coin rings, you will need a coin minted prior to 1965. That is when the goverment decided that they could save a bundle by making money that no longer had any intrinsic value, and started making coins out of a copper-nickel sandwich. Coins minted in 1964 and earlier were made of almost pure silver. You’ll need one of those. A quarter will yield a medium width men’s ring, or a wide band for a woman’s finger, while a half-dollar will make a very stout ring for a man-sized finger. You could probably just buy your coin on ebay, but to get extra experiential value out the project, you should go into one of those coin shops run by some grumpy old kurmugeon who has been there since 1954 and hasn’t seen an unfamiliar customer in 6 months.

Converting your coin into a very nice shiny silver ring is really pretty simple. You take a heavy spoon and tap on the edge of the coin, rotating it as you work, so that you work the whole thing in an even manner. You continue this, until the coin edge has mushroomed down into a wide band with an inside diameter that meets your desired finger dimensions. The center portion of the coin is then drilled out, leaving a silver band inscribed with E. Pluribus Unum, Liberty, United States of America, and all that. Pretty cool.

You can click over to this page to see some nice photo-illustrated step-by-step instructions on how to do it yourself.